What you can and can’t feed cats

The quest for kitty’s contentment.

As pet owners, we crave our furry children’s love. There’s nothing harder than pulling food out of reach and having to deal with the hurt, judging stare of a furball just a few generations out from having us for dinner.

Unfortunately, a lot of what we humans eat isn’t quite as good for our pets. So while little Felix may be eyeing up the leftovers and pawing through the fruit bowl, there are a whole bunch of things your cat shouldn’t sink their pointy teeth into – even if they really, really want to!

To help you keep their diet straight, we made a list of feline-friendly food and meals to avoid. And while every cat’s a carnivore, their individual taste may differ – after all, cats are people too!

Keep in mind the following lists aren’t exhaustive.

What human foods can cats eat?

Here are some of your cat’s worst enemies and best friends, colour-coded for convenience.

Chocolate Can my cat eat chocolate? No!

It may be sweet, but there’s a dark secret lurking underneath the surface. Chocolate – especially cooking chocolate – contains a compound called theobromine toxic to cats in very small doses.

Garlic Can my cat eat garlic? No!

If we eat too much garlic, our breath might stink, but for cats garlic is worse than a social faux pas – it’s toxic in large doses. Steer clear!

Grapes Can my cat eat grapes and raisins? No!

These may look wrinkly and harmless, but they’re actually super toxic for cats! If your pet pigs out on grapes, it could be in for catastrophic kidney failure.

Bacon Can my cat eat ham or bacon? No!

Processed meats are loaded with salt. A single slice of bacon can hold ten times as much salt as a cat should eat in a day, and is loaded with saturated fat, too.

Peanut Butter Can my cat eat peanut butter? No point.

This sandwich staple is full of fat and sugar and provides no actual nutrition to cats. Most cats won’t even try to eat peanut butter.

Mushroom Can my cat eat mushrooms? Not recommended.

Much like peanut butter, mushrooms don’t give cats anything they need. This isn’t a problem if your cat chows down on store-bought shrooms, but if they’ve been eating them out in the wild you should keep a close eye for mushroom poisoning.

Avocado Can my cat eat avocado? In moderation.

Smear it on toast, rub it on your face… feed it to your cat? Well, maybe a little. Avocado actually has a heap of great nutrients but is loaded up with fat. Keep the avocado to a minimum and save it for yourself.

Milk Can my cat eat dairy? Depends on the cat!

Like humans, cats become more lactose intolerant as they age. Hard cheeses and yogurt might be okay in small doses depending on the cat, but never give them milk! They can’t digest it, no matter what cartoons have taught us.

Potato Can my cat eat potatoes? Probably not.

If cooked properly potatoes are mostly harmless to your pet, but unripe potatoes have an ingredient called solanine which is bad for your cat’s digestion and nervous system. Potatoes don’t really offer big nutritional value, plus we imagine they don’t really taste that great to cats anyway.

Tomato Can my cat eat tomatoes? Nope.

Where some potatoes have solanine, all tomatoes have this dangerous ingredient which messes with cats’ nervous systems.

banana Can my cat eat banana? They shouldn’t.

Bananas are a wonderful health food and a perfect snack… for humans. Unfortunately, while ‘nanas are a decent source of potassium, they’re also very heavy on the carbohydrates which makes them a poor choice for pusses.

Egg Can my cat eat eggs? Yep!

Cooked eggs are a great source of protein, for humans and for animals. The only real danger is if your cat’s been eating many entire raw eggs for weeks or months. Which sounds like a very weird hobby to us.

Chicken Can my cat eat raw chicken? Definitely!

Raw chicken is one of the best raw meats your cat can eat. The bones can help keep kitty’s teeth and gums healthy, while its stomach enzymes make short work of any salmonella lurking in the meat.

Bread Can my cat eat bread? Snack away.

For whatever reason, a lot of cats (and dogs) love eating little bits of bread. Just make sure you’re feeding them wholegrain or a loaf without too much sugar.

Strawberry Can my cat eat strawberries? If they want.

Strawberries fall into the camp of “sure, why not?” foods. While your cat won’t suffer any ill effects from gobbling a strawberry or two, they won’t gain much either.

Watermelon Can my cat eat watermelon? De-seed them first!

Watermelon itself is harmless, but the seeds inside can contain trace amounts of compounds that are bad for your cat’s health. Pick out the seeds, and you’re good to go.

Corn Can my cat eat corn? Cook it!

Cats love things like corn and millet and barley because they’re small and have interesting textures. Cooking the corn or grain first just makes it easier on your kitty’s digestive system.

Remember, if by any terrible accident your pet ever eats something they shouldn’t, a good pet insurance policy for your cat will help cover any sky-high vet bills spent nursing your baby back to health.

How much do cats need to eat?

This is a source of endless agony for pet owners. Like all good parents, we want our fuzzy children to have not too much and not too little. So what’s the right amount?

You can always count out the calories listed on the package of dry or wet food. The average adult cat requires about 65 calories per kilo per day according to the Animal Medical Center in New York, so measure accordingly.

You’ll know your cat’s too thin if their backbone and ribs show through their skin, or too fat if you can’t feel their ribs at all.

Is wet or dry food better for cats?

The core of a good feline diet is meat, poultry and fish. Any dry food should have a lot of animal protein and very little plant protein – cats are happy carnivores, and certainly not vegetarians. Wet food should be mostly meat with as little filler as possible.

So long as your cat’s getting everything they need to keep them healthy, give your cat whichever they prefer. Just be careful of letting your cat “free-feed” on dry food all day – measure it out beforehand and work it into your calorie count, or your tabby might end up a little tubby.

And please, please don’t feed your cat dog food. Dogs and cats are as different as pigs and bears, so leave dog chow for the pups.

Does your kitty like eating things it shouldn't? Pet insurance has your back.

Updated August 25th, 2019
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